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March 2, 2000


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Victim of Marine Drive high tide

Raju Bharatan

He needed but five runs to complete 6,000 runs in Test cricket when Sachin did something mindless. Tendulkar (8) padded up to one pitched just three inches outside the off-stump by South African captain Hansie Cronje to leave 'home' umpire S Venkataraghavan with no go but to adjudge him out, lbw, for deliberate padding. That was on the second afternoon (25 February, 2000) of the first Test, at the Wankhede stadium, which India lost but narrowly -- by 4 wickets.

Right through his carefree first innings knock of 97 in that first Test, Sachin (from the non-striker’s end) had viewed Hansie Cronje consistently move the ball out. In fact, it was with this ball, moving away late, that Cronje had (on the first afternoon -- 24 February) claimed Ajay Jadeja (caught by Shaun Pollock for 12) and Nayan Mongia (caught by wicketkeeper Boucher for a first ball duck). Had Sachin (during the match) been as attentive at the non-striker’s end, as he habitually is, he would have observed that the odd Cronje ball did dip in -- ever so slightly.

Only those like me, who have lived all their life at Marine Drive, can claim an insight into how this 'indipping' happens. It is 'high tide' at nearby Marine Drive between 2 and 3 in the afternoon. During this crucial hour, for 15-20 minutes, the Marine Drive high tide can see even the ball pitched as an outswinger 'drift in' -- without warning.

The Wankhede stadium centre-wicket is located exactly where pitch No 3 (on what was called Lloyd’s Recreation in my time) was situated. And, at high tide time, between 2 and 3 in the afternoon, we could experience the occasional ball, sent down as an outswinger, unaccountably dip 'in' that bit. I saw some of our finest batsmen (including Vijay Merchant) encounter this 'drift-in' phenomenon on Lloyd’s Recreation pitch No 3 in the 1940s. And this was an occurrence common along pitches located on the Marine Drive coastline.

Chandu Borde, as Maharashtra and West Zone captain, always stayed at Hotel Sea Green -- facing the ocean at Marine Drive. And Borde was probably the first leader of men to divine that things 'happen' at the Brabourne Stadium between 2 and 3 in the afternoon -- the hour of high tide.

This, lucklessly, was the hour in which, during end-December 1970, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi came in to bat for M L Jaisimha’s South Zone versus Chandu Borde’s West Zone in the Duleep Trophy semi-final. That needle encounter was in the nature of a 'score-settler'. It was, by then, known that Tiger Pataudi had to deliver that fateful afternoon to neutralise the anti-view of chairman of selectors Vijay Merchant.

The applause was deafening as Pataudi came in to bat versus West Zone, led by Chandu Borde, Tiger’s live challenger, by that stage, for the Indian captaincy. Pataudi looked in superb touch as Borde brought in India’s fast, English import Saeed Ahmed Hatteea to bowl to Tiger. Borde, sensing that the high tide hour could be his, asked Hatteea to keep pitching the ball up. But Hatteea, young and overenthusiatic, bounced his first ball to Pataudi. Swiftly coming inside the line, Pataudi hooked that bumper for a rousing six in the direction of the Brabourne stadium press-box -- from where most of the pro-Borde noises (made against him and his India captaincy) had emanated. Pataudi then jauntily strode down the wicket to point to the spot where Hatteea had pitched that one. He thereby indicated that Hatteea was welcome to land another one there -- if he wanted a second six helping! And Hatteea would have bounced the next one, too. But Borde -- with a friendly Maharashtra arm round his shoulder -- urged Hatteea to pitch a fuller length -- just outside the off-stump.

Hatteea, miraculously, stuck to the line laid down by Borde. The way he bowled this one, it looked an outswinger -- like that Balwinder Singh Sandhu delivery which had appeared as an ouswinger to Gordon Greenidge (1) on the Saturday afternoon of 25 June 1983 at Lord’s! Sandhu -- to this day -- is unable to explain how that natural outswinger of his 'moved in' to claim Greenidge’s off-stump as its booty. Unwittingly, thus, Sandhu struck the first blow for Kapil Dev’s India to lift the World Cup.

Likewise, Syed Ahmed Hatteea, with an outswing action, pitched this one up to Pataudi -- just outside the off-stump line. Pataudi, instinctively, was inclined to let that ball go through to the wicketkeeper -- when it cut back at him like a viper. Hatteea’s appeal for lbw could be heard in faraway Hyderabad. To his eternal credit, Pataudi began walking even as umpire Banerjee lifted his finger. Hatteea was doing a war-dance following this momentous breakthrough. But Borde asked the strapping youngster to pipe down, keep a level head and, similarly, pitch one outside the off-stump to new batsman M L Jaisimha. And Jai, too, to Hatteea’s delight, played for the ouswinger -- for the Marine Drive high tide to do the rest. This outswinger, upon pitching just outside the off-stump, came that wee bit in -- to trap Jaisimha, plumb lbw.

"Foxed ’em both!" celebrated Syed Ahmed Hatteea, as I caught up with him in the West Zone dressing-room. Hatteea had just married a girl named Joyce in England. And I had won him over with the quotable quote: "There are joys and joys but only one Joyce!"

Hatteea proceeded to narrate to me how his skipper Chandu Borde had told him to "see the magic by merely pitching your natural outswinger, just outside the off-stump, in this hour of high tide".

Hatteea, right then, was bidding for the fast bowler’s slot in the early 1971 Indian team, due to tour Sobers’ West Indies. And it was Hatteea’s freak dismissal of Tiger Pataudi (in that make-or-break December 1970 West Zone-South Zone Duleep Trophy semi-final) that facilitated, on 2 January 1971, the historic casting vote by Vijay Merchant that saw Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi’s 36 Tests reign as India’s captain come to an end. That Hatteea did not make it to the West Indies, and even master strategist Chandu Borde (from being vice-captain) lost his place in the Indian team forever at that very point, is the supreme irony of it all.

Where the Marine Drive high tide dethroned Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi then, Sachin Tendulkar had 'opted out' by the afternoon of Friday 25 February 2000. Yet, at the Wankhede that 25 February afternoon, Sachin (8) was viewed by Chandu Borde, for one, to be a victim of the 'Brabourne-Pataudi syndrome'. That outswinger (metamorphosing into an indipper) had travelled, all along the Marine Drive coastline, from the Brabourne to the Wankhede!

Having seen the previous Cronje deliveries (in the second innings of that Wankhede stadium Test) move out, Sachin (by then not quite there!) mechanically padded up for the outswinger. "High tide Sachin left!" was the Venkat verdict! Chandu Borde, as chairman of selectors, could perhaps have asked Sachin to watch out during that hazardous high tide hour at Marine Drive. But would Sachin have listened?

It is said: 'There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads to fortune.' Fortune had ceased to favour Sachin long before Cronje so turned the 'tide' decisively in South Africa’s favour.

Raju Bharatan

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